Rochdale 2 Hereford United 4

ON-FIRE loan marksman Sherjill MacDonald fired Hereford to a memorable victory at Spotland.

The Holland under-21 international fired a first-half hat-trick in just 17 minutes and Gary Hooper's second-half strike applied the coup de grace for the Bulls.

Hereford, who were already without Dean Beckwith (hip injury) suffered a further blow in the warm-up.

Skipper Ben Smith felt a problem in his groin and withdrew from the side in favour of Kris Taylor.

Hereford fell behind after only five minutes when Rochdale gained their first corner of the evening.

Adam Rundle delivered the cross and Simon Ramsden bundled the ball, and goalkeeper Wayne Brown, into the back of the net.

Hereford, however, forced their way back into the game and levelled eight minutes later.

Gary Hooper charged down an attempted clearance near half-way and raced through before squaring for MacDonald to sidefoot the ball home.

And MacDonald was at it again, holding off a defender as he received Clint Easton's pass and clipping his shot past keeper Sam Russell.

The hat-trick goal was not long in coming when Simon Johnson's cross flashed though a crowd of players to the predatory MacDonald who blasted in his third.

Rochdale had the better of possession as the interval approached and the home side were unfortunate not to reduce arrears three minutes before the break.

Adam Le Fondre seized on a deflected shot from David Perkins but his effort came back off a post.

Even then, Hereford squandered two great chances before the break, both created by MacDonald and wastefully missed by Hooper.

Rochdale pressed forward as the second half began, looking to reduce arrears.

But, although they forced a handful of corners, the home side foundered continually against the immaculate Bulls defence.

There was an anxious moment when Brown did superbly to tip a Perkins cross on to a post but, almost immediately, Hereford broke away to score their fourth.

Hooper picked up the ball on the edge of the area, rounded a defender and cracked in his third goal in as many games.

Top-scorer Theo Robinson replaced MacDonald for the last 10 minutes and should have added a fifth when he blazed wide after Clint Easton's cross picked him out.

Deep into injury time, Rochdale gained a measure of consolation when Rene Howe headed in a Kallum Higginbotham cross.

Hereford: Brown; McClenahan, Collins, McCombe, Rose; Johnson, Taylor, Diagouraga (Gwynne, 54 min), Easton; MacDonald (Robinson, 81 min), Hooper. Subs not used: Ingham, Broadhurst, Benjamin.

Rochdale: Russell, Ramsden, Kennedy, McArdle (Higginbotham, 46 min), Stanton, Perkins, Doolan (Buckley, 46 min), Jones, Rundle, Howe, Le Fondre. Subs not used: Spencer, Holness, Basham.

Referee: Scott Mathieson Attendance: 2,884